i am working on a song with shrewd and the boys and yesterday we were trying to figure out the chords. it’s not as simple as usually my songs are [G - D - C - E, alt F - Am - C - Em]. maybe it’s not even my song, maybe it’s something i heard somewhere and forgot about and regurgitated in my brain. remember the time that Helen Keller did that with a children’s book and then Alexander Graham Bell, a great admirer of hers, stood with her? or did that not happen either? all i know is that Helen Keller didn’t mean to crib, and neither do i.
the chords aren’t cyclical, Guitar Bear said [not his real name]. it’s old - old stuff like what Billie Holiday sings. when something is that old —
—the statute of limitations has past on cribbing, you mean, I said. [I always do this - interrupt people and finish their sentences. i mean to show I am listening ACTIVELY, but really it is pretty rude, and I am trying to adjust.]
i want to write more than just one song; i want to fill up sheets of vellum and emboss the words with gold and lapis lazuli. Or something.
but it’s hard to start making beautiful things when you are not sure when you will die.
she rests a fortnight on her shin
the one bruised in battle with a standard
mop, her teeth gritted in knuckle rage
gray water spilled on the floor
like an envoy of darkness, of a priori
doom. she runs a thousand sidewalk slabs
to stop her flesh from turning gelatinous,
and when she raises her head
there is night rain to meet her
and the leaves on the trees move
like the wings of insects, loving, swarming.
and her shadow will lie on the porch
for the sun, and above her face, pale stone.
i want to be
When I was born
The sparrows and the larks
Tasted blood on their tongues
A slip on a stone
I fell from the oak tree’s shoulder
Into the blue lap of lake wave
Jut and jeer, my monkey face,
Peers, craven and caned,
Stealing from my cousin’s cave,
It’s all dark in there, but for the jurors,
Staring down from stalagmite eaves.
Chin up, baby, mother said,
I’ll break your bread for you every day,
Till you grow seven fingers for each plant
To peel the orange rind earth,
Pulpy root, worm, pip, and pebble,
Grow as tall as banyan,
Taste stream and runnel and then rain,
Tipple in the rivulet and were and wold,
Roots on roots, grow seed and sow,
Until the moon slips into the sun.
Tripping over the same
Spilling the same cup,
Into the same lap
White linens stained a
Ripped plum black
I don’t think anymore,
That brain lacks tact
Apt to divulge more pain than promise
So I would not have me honest.
There’s a windstruck city by a lake,
It doesn’t keep me well
I gave it my name once
While plinths of ice shouldered
Each other in the black water,
“Have you got it?” I asked the next summer,
And the city said nothing, whirring
Self-satisfied circles around my feet
But I didn’t move at all
Like a madwoman, I watched my heart
Sail into the water, sail and sink.
i tucked my legs under me
a cool suspension so you can see why
the wild cats are partial to me,
batted my eyes so these coffee stains
seem elegiac and serene,
it’s not urine dripping from my jeans
but the whole human comedy,
and it smells like god’s tears,
i tuck my hair behind my ear
so to better engender a type of
nublie bravery, or whatever a heroine
needs these days to make bank,
don’t you like my little stockings?
my pearl earring? my missing rib?
romance, is dead,
i said to the man in the battered fedora
while we sat and waited
for the last metro out of paris
he plucked the air like an old guitar
to the accordion player at the corner
while we sat and contemplated
the row of stars rising in the sky
there are moments when it seems the whole world is a hallucination, that if I could find the loose thread and tug, it would come unraveling around me like a dream unravels in the light of day: quickly, irrevocably. that i would bathe in tumbling relief, wash off the gross remembrance of this false universe.
but i am reasonably certain that it is reality i am witnessing right now, that i will not wake up. the world begets me in the morning, a tremor, quivering and rigid, like a warbling bow. it is not that i have lost the moral compass, merely that it seems unimportant, the root of nothing, simply a measuring spoon to a recipe I have no intention of making.
There is a crow that frequents the branches outside my office window. He is a stupendous specimen - glossy and black, as big as a cat. His feathers throw a liquid sheen, ruffled around his neck like a fur muff. He makes for a fine contrast to the mild pink and green blush of the trees. He is such a living thing; there is purpose and caution in his movements, the kind that pervades all wild things. I wait for him through the paneled glass. I can feel the leaves growing and stretching in the cold May air.
Does a fish ever tire of being a fish? Does it ever feel even a moment’s frustration that it is limited to its inherently fishy form? Does it ever the icthyopodal equivalent of an epiphany?
He asked us. Shall I show him, I think? Shall I let the growths on my back break through my skin in a spurt of blood and begin to expand, tier off into branch after branch, until each is taller than myself, hung with sinew and ligament, a shell of down and then of feathers, until I can lift off from seat and break from this immense gravity?
My bones have separated from my flesh. The space between is bereft of tendon and blood, a thin wailing vacuum.
She pulled out her heart
From a walnut shell
The size of a baby fist
The color of river sand
Rubbled like a picked plum
That seagull’s got at it, got at it,
Take a run and break your limbs
The sea shore is slick and deadly
To your little girl feet
Floundering in the pools of slippery green
While that bird is keeling, keening,
Tending to your heart with its beak
Down on the wholesome streets
They pretend to drop dead
Licking the sidewalk once in the summer heat
Prickled her tongue on mica sweets
Scrubbed like a day old beard
That madman’s got at it, got at it,
And he’s a-sprinting down the alley
Long grows his shadow and then longer
When the earth rolls into the second night
Don’t chase after, little girl fleet,
The streets will run you ragged
While he croons above you, having grown wings